September 27, 2020

The Big Picture: Catching an intense solar flare in action


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solar-flare-nasa-fullbleedFrom engadget

The X1.8 solar flare in ultraviolet light

It’s no longer rare to hear reports of solar flares that could affect Earth, but seeing them in vivid detail? That’s another matter. Thankfully, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory recently captured a high-intensity X1.8 flare (80 percent more intense than an already huge X1 flare) in action. The pretty pyrotechnics you see above represent a subset of the ultraviolet light from the eruption, while the video below shows what it looked like in other wavelengths. And the kicker? As impressive as this may be, it’s far from the largest example in recent memory — that honor goes to a mammoth X28+ flare from 2003. These ejections aren’t so enjoyable when they cause havoc with communications and navigation systems, but they at least make for a good light show.

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NASA is launching a wild project to make Venus’s atmosphere habitable

SCIENCE NASA Venus Atmosphere Project

screenshot-12By Brad Reed From BGR

The surface of Venus is not anything close to habitable, since its average surface temperature is around 864 degrees Fahrenheit. But what if we never bothered trying to walk on Venus and instead built a floating city in the clouds that would make Lando Calrissian feel right at home?

That’s one project that NASA engineers are working on right now and it’s not as crazy as you might think. Digital Journal reports that NASA’s “High Altitude Venus Operational Concept or HAVOC project plans to create a city of multiple zeppelins, floating 31 miles up in the Venetian atmosphere at a temperature of 167 degrees Fahrenheit.”

While most of us obviously wouldn’t be comfortable in that temperature, it’s much easier to provide air conditioning at that temperature than it would be to provide heat on Mars, which often reaches insufferably cold temperatures, especially at night.

As NASA describes it, the HAVOC is being designed as “a lighter-than-air rocket ship that would help send two astronauts on a 30-day mission to explore the planet’s atmosphere.” NASA also notes that in addition to being designed to handle Venus’s hot temperatures, any exploration vehicle will need to contend with the planet’s “smog-like sulfuric acid-laced atmosphere.”

Image Source: NASA Langley Research Center / YouTube

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